President Obama unveils new education initiative for African Americans in opening speech to National Urban League

President Barack Obama speaks about education during the National Urban League convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Today, President Obama gave the opening remarks at the National Urban League Convention. During his speech, the president announced an executive order aimed at helping African Americans get the best education possible.  White House officials said this order will make certain that African Americans students have the necessary tools to graduate from high school, complete college and pursue careers. 

President Obama also pointed out that if the government is going to focus more on education, young students have to do their part as well.

Of course, that means all of you all have got to hit the books.  I'm just saying; Don’t cheer and then you didn’t do your homework, because that’s part of the bargain, that's part of the bargain -- America says we will give you opportunity, but you've got to earn your success.

You're competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore. They're not hanging out. They're not getting over. They're not playing video games. They're not watching "Real Housewives." I'm just saying. It's a two-way street. You've got to earn success.

The President also said he will be pushing colleges and universities to cut costs.  He stressed that higher education is something that will be needed in the future.

Because we can’t keep asking taxpayers to subsidize skyrocketing tuition.  A higher education in the 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford.  I want all these young people to be getting a higher education, and I don’t want them loaded up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt just to get an education. That’s how we make America great."

Whether this program will actually lead to more economic and educational advancement for African Americans is uncertain.  But judging from the vivid response to the President’s announcement from the convention audience – African Americans are hopeful that it will.

About the author

John Ketchum is an assistant producer for Marketplace’s wealth & poverty desk.

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